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NPD: Ampeg SCR-DI - A Lesson in Try Before You Buy

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by BBassBassington, Apr 8, 2020.

  1. BBassBassington


    May 6, 2018
    I've always wanted an Ampeg amp, basically from the moment I knew what an SVT was. Yet over the years when I'd go amp shopping I continually chose another option over an Ampeg. There was usually some sort of price/quality/weight factor playing against them sadly.

    Funny enough I put an Ampeg BA115 on layaway about 10 years ago, came back into the store a week later and said forget the Ampeg I want that black EBMM Stingray instead! And then a couple years ago I was considering either a Portaflex 350 w/ SVT210AV or a Rumble 500 w/ Rumble 210. I'd talked to my non-musician friend at length about it and she boiled it down to the Fender is wife material and the Ampeg has a nice bottom. So I got the Rumble.

    Due to COVID-19 for the foreseeable future I'm doing headphone only practice though so I figured I'd make my life easier with a preamp pedal. After much research my options boiled down to:

    1. TC Spectradrive (Still waiting for Amazon to ship it, but might cancel the order.)
    2. Trace Eliot Transit B (Way too big.)
    3. GK Plex (I would have bought this if it had a cab sim and GK hadn't spent the last 4 years promising a firmware update is coming real soon.)
    4. And the Ampeg SCR-DI
    So I started watching YouTube videos and to my surprise the Ampeg sounded like an Ampeg. I was even liking the Scrambler despite the fact I hadn't liked it on any of the BA combos (a red flag I shouldn't have ignored) and then I read a post saying the SCR-DI has a 5khz roll off as a pseudo cab-sim and I was sold!

    So I was super excited this morning when it arrived. Finally, I'd brought an Ampeg home! Surely this is going to be a big moment. So I grabbed my SBMM Ray5, plugged it in, and then...

    The preamp was farting out from the hot signal. My fear from reading so many reviews and posts had come to light. Worse then that it sounded very bland. So I lower the output on my compressor to bring it below unity gain then start playing around. I was very disappointed with the results. I will say it's about as heavy as my Rumble 500 head and feels super solid and higher quality then any Ampeg product I've tried that wasn't an SVT. Had I ended up liking the sound I could live with having to control the input level before it.

    I hated the sound though. It kinda, sorta, a little bit sounds like an Ampeg but it also sounds like it sucks the life out of my bass.

    The Scrambler

    Is every bit as meh as it is in the BA combos. Which isn't to say I don't like it, I actually do think it's very usable at reasonable gain levels and makes an okay overdrive but when you really bring it front and center it just has this ugliness in the mids that also makes it feel a bit empty and it just comes off like a cheap OD pedal. To be fair I'm very picky with bass distortions of all types, I haven't actually found a dirt pedal I like even my Source Audio Aftershock sometimes turns me off.

    The EQ

    I like the frequency they center the bass knob on, that's very usable. The problem is the pedal sounds super thin so I found myself pushing it to 3 o'clock and I was really wanting for some more low-mids. A 4-band would have really helped here.

    Of course you can engage the ultra-lo to fix this and it does! But then the mids feel too scooped and I find myself really wanting to cut bass frequencies.

    And then there's the mid control which is centered on a frequency I don't like, so instinctively I want to cut it but then there's even less mids and at this point I'm starved for them.

    And the upper frequencies just sound really harsh and playing with the treble knob in either direction just feels bad. Engaging Ultra-hi just makes everything sound uglier and cheaper. Running my Aftershock into this pedal made all 3 settings (Darkglass, Rat, and Foldover) sound nearly identical. I wasn't a fan of my MXR Envelope Filter or SA Lunar Phaser, it made them sound cheap as well.

    So in the end I found it was pushing me towards this really tubby sound that was missing all the juicy mids I love, or a sound so thin and cheap that I felt like I was playing through a $20 amp. I found myself massively preferring how my bass sounded with the pedal off. Nearly $400 CAD and my favorite noise it makes is the one where it doesn't.

    The Verdict

    I wish I had a chance to try one of these first. YouTube clips, reviews, forums, sound bites they all really help and can be great in understanding what you're getting but they'll never paint the whole picture. I can basically figure how a bass will sound based on it's specs/construction but clearly I'm not good at that with amps and pedals, even if I hear others play them.

    Would I recommend this pedal? Sure. If you like how it sounds and don't mind that it's literally a brick I'd have no issue recommending it. I did really want to like it.

    I also learned that I'm not really an Ampeg guy after all. I'm also worried the TC is going to be a similar story. I already know from videos I don't like the tubedrive and I replaced my Spectracomp with a Boss LMB-3. Factor in that it's also lacking cab simulation and it seems like I'm in for a repeat of this situation. My wallet may be happy today but my laziness is not!
  2. simongpaez

    simongpaez Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2005
    The Woodlands , Texas
    I agree with you, had it for a while and was very disappointing peace of gear. Darkglass new pedals have input and headphones they are good , Spectra is not amazing but way better than the Ampeg
  3. gh0st42

    gh0st42 Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2019
    I've tried a pretty large number of Ampegs, and Ampeg Style preamps, etc over the last 20 years from all the usual manufacturers.

    I've tried Ampeg SVP-Pro, SVP-BS, Scramblers, Sansamps, etc.

    I've only found one that does a convincing Ampeg SVT sound (played a old school original SVT Classic stack from the 70's for reference), and that's the Broughton SV-Pre pedal.

    Absolutely leaves every other brand and model, including Ampegs in the dust, as far as capturing the sound of playing though an old SVT Classic on top of a 8x10 Fridge Cab.

    You may need to add something with a Speaker Emulator, headphone jacks, etc but if you want that tone, give one of these a shot.
  4. whoismarykelly


    Feb 12, 2004
    If you plug it into an amp you would probably like it a lot more. Headphones are just a poor way to experience bass tone unless you really tweak everything specifically for your headphones. I use a Shift Line Olympic for headphone demoing of pedals and it sounds nice but doesn't really hold a candle to just playing an amp at talking volume.
  5. BBassBassington


    May 6, 2018
    I looked at a few and didn't notice any with headphone and aux. Any suggestions for ones I should look up? The Darkglass stuff has been my favorite part of the Aftershock and a Zoom B1Four that I used to own.

    I did read good things about that pedal in my search, I'd love to be able to just add preamps before a speaker sim with aux and phones but AFAIK there isn't one out there, plus at some point cost is going to become an issue but if I could find something to do the trick that'd be great. I know the Zoom B3 and B1Four would do the trick but I'm not really a fan of those pedals and they'd need their own power supply and a lot of board space.
  6. BBassBassington


    May 6, 2018
    I don't like amps at such low volume, there's no life to the sound. My Fender Rumble 500 head gets a similar tone through headphones as it does through a cab because of it's speaker emulation (or a preset EQ or whatever they use right before it leaves the headphones out) so I know it can be done.

    I actually really like using headphones while I play. Keeps the sound all around me and I can really get the bass pumping without enduring the wrath of those sleeping in the same house, plus you don't have all the sound issues some rooms may introduce. But yeah without cab sim headphone playing is very bland it seems.
    bhendrix likes this.
  7. BBassBassington


    May 6, 2018
    BrentSimons likes this.
  8. gh0st42

    gh0st42 Supporting Member

    Oct 25, 2019
    DSM Noisemaker has a couple options depending on your needs. OmniCab and OmniCab Mini (No XLR Out), as well as the Simplifier.

    Mooer Radar sounds like a pretty nice Cab emulator too.

    Combo will run a little more than a Ampeg Scrambler DI (Lots more if you go with the DSM Simplifier $$$) but aren't terribly out of line price wise.
    BBassBassington likes this.
  9. BBassBassington


    May 6, 2018
    Thanks, I'll take a look into these and see what I can find out.
  10. TheLopp


    Dec 30, 2013
    I have an SCR-DI as well and I think your review was pretty spot on. But did you try to swap the internal jumpers to handle your hot bass? Maybe gets a little better... or not. Just a thought.
  11. Tubehed


    Oct 27, 2011
    I’ve never used headphones with the SCR-DI. I use it in front of my Eden WT 800 for when I want some Ampeg “flavor” and it works great for that application. I wouldn’t say it sounds like an SVT but definitely a nice solid state Ampeg tone.

    As for drawbacks, there is no independent volume control for the Scrambler portion and it sounds like the volume is a bit lower than the clean signal. If anything, I want a bit of a boost when I’m using dirt. Also, the SCR-DI does seem to lower the overall gain of the incoming signal when bypassed. I correct for this by boosting the volume a bit on my compressor. Finally, the pot shafts are made of flimsy plastic and the shafts aren’t mounted to the enclosure. They can easily snap off. Hard to understand why they cheaped out in this area when the rest of the pedal is very solid and robust. Despite those gripes, I think it is a really nice unit for DI or in front of an amp.
    fermig and BBassBassington like this.
  12. BBassBassington


    May 6, 2018
    I didn't as I'm pretty dead set on returning it and the retailer I bought from is pretty strict about returns.
  13. TheLopp


    Dec 30, 2013
    This is something Ampeg did for the customers to do themselves. Unscrew the feet’s and change the jumper by hand. Easy as that. No problem restoring it to default if you’re returning it.
    diegom, macmanlou and Tubehed like this.
  14. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Could it be that your headphones aren't a good match to the pedal?
    I have never had a pedal for headphones use that was anything other than a disappointment (and this is with Sony VR6's and a SWR headphone amp).
    Small mixer worked best for me.
  15. Well, as much as I love Ampeg tone, there is no ampeg tone in this pedal. Unfortunately, it is an awful sounding pedal.
    AlexanderB and BBassBassington like this.
  16. GVisc


    Apr 20, 2014
    New York
    I have one and use it in front of a Genz benz shuttle and works fine for me, I guess I'm not so picky with my gear as it still sounds like a bass guitar.
    franvarin and BBassBassington like this.
  17. BBassBassington


    May 6, 2018
    Possibly. They're Sennheiser HD558's with the "foam mod" and they sound pretty stellar with my Rumble 500 but I could see them as being part of the problem, I'm sure if I used more bass heavy closed backs it'd be a bit better.

    I am being picky and at nearly $400 CAD I think I deserve to be. From what I understand the pedal is basically the front end of a BA combo and the SCR-DI costs more then a BA110, and it's twice the price of even my most expensive pedals which were already a hard sell for me price wise.

    I'm glad to see lots of other people have gotten good use of these pedals though. Ampeg did a lot of stuff right here, I just really don't like the sound.
    kodiakblair likes this.
  18. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    I find the SCR-DI is wonderful in front of an Amp and sounds dramatically different through headphones. I've used it with headphones because it is convenient, but I agree the sound is pretty "meh" listening to it through cans.
  19. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    I tried a SCR-DI too, was disappointed and flipped it almost immediately. What I realized was that the SCR-DI pedal is basically just the Scrambler OD and preamp section from an Ampeg BA series combo, without any of the other stuff that actually makes the "Ampeg sound". It doesn't have the speakers, the cab, and everything else in the physical recipe that goes into making Ampeg sound AMPEG. So if you want the real Ampeg sound, buy the real deal, not an attempted imitation in a pedal. Even if that pedal was made by Ampeg themselves.
    BBassBassington and Holdsg like this.

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